Realizing that you’re stuck in a rut can be discouraging. The act of starting over and the uncertainty that comes with it can make or break even the strongest person and make them crumble under pressure. However, it only takes a spark, the thing that ignites a fire in your soul and out from the ashes comes your rebirth. After almost nine years of being a band, BlessTheFall found themselves trapped in that dark, disparaging rut in search of something to carry them into a new beginning. That new beginning came in the form of their sixth full-length album, Hard Feelings. The main inspiration for the album centers around the band’s desire for a fresh start which fueled their motivation to bring forth some much-needed changes – like a huge label change.
This is the band’s first album under their new label, Rise Records. This move proved to be one of the best decisions the band could have made; explaining that throughout recording the label encouraged them to produce the music they wanted to make and brought a new energy that inspired the band’s creative process. The AZ band worked with producer Tyler Smyth of dangerkids and featured additional production from From First To Last’s front man Matt Good and Howard Benson, who’s previous work includes My Chemical Romance and The Used.
The band has described Hard Feelings as “old BlessTheFall with a fresh, new sound” and it’s spot on. Everything about the album – including the album art - signifies a new life for the band. It’s everything that their 2015 release To Those Left Behind should have been. The band completely transforms themselves from each song to the next, making for a truly spectacular listening experience. Vocalist Beau Bokan even tweeted that he listened to the album every night in bunk for seven weeks while on tour in Europe and that's when he knew they had something special.
The album starts off with “Wishful Sinking”, one of the first songs they wrote for the album. The song has all of the bite of older BlessTheFall songs with a new twist that perfectly sets the tone for the rest of record. The combination of Bokan’s clean vocals and Jared Warth’s ferocity work together flawlessly. With a line like “you’re the shore, I’m the tidal wave”, it seems BlessTheFall has found their groove again. “Find Yourself” is one of the first true examples of the new sound on the record. With it’s synth-driven melodies and soaring chorus, this track is full of the toxicity that comes along with a love gone sour.
“Melodramatic”, which was the lead single on the record, proves why it was chosen to be the first taste of what was in store for this record. This track digs deep and tugs on every bit of frustration you’ve ever felt. “I need the anger/ I need the rage/ I need the worst thing you can say/ If you wanted a war I guess you got what you came for” is code for “BlessTheFall did not come to play on this new record.” The slow building “Feeling Low” replaces those rage-inducing vibes with pieces of hope when dealing with personal turmoil.
“Cutthroat” is the perfect title for this track as it knocks you like a solid right hook from the moment the opening kicks in. It’s one of the heaviest songs on the record, about cutting out all of the toxic people in your life. “I’m Over Being Under(rated)” is the best representation of the band’s transitional period, bursting at the seams with feelings of being lost and the frustration of not getting the respect you deserve. The opening melody was heavily inspired by the show Stranger Things. The band revealed the track was previously titled “Barb’s Not Dead” and they dedicated it to the actress that portrays the character on the show, Shannon Purser. Bokan said the breakdown in this song was his favorite on the album, and after listening to the track you can see why.
One of the more melodic tracks on the record, “Sleepless in Phoenix” tackles a bittersweet goodbye and its infectious chorus is guaranteed to get stuck in your head. “Keep Me Close” was one of the first tracks that lead guitarist, Eric Lambert wrote on the album saying that it “went through many changes before it turned into this beaut”. Lambert went on to say on Instagram that he “was in a really dark place” when writing most of these songs, but the music helped pull him out of it. Those emotions are definitely evident on this track, calling out to every bit of darkness that dwells inside of you. “Lose and terrible/ Hollow in ways you’ll never know / If it’s all in my head / It’s heavier now than it’s ever been,” lyrics that hit you right in the chest.
Arguably one of the softest tracks on the record, “Sakura Blues” provides some serious atmospheric vibes and gives Bokan a chance to shine, showcasing his impeccable vocal range. It’s a true portrayal of musicianship to deliver songs that are out of the norm, this is very evident on the final track, “Welcome Home”. This track is all about the heartbreaking reality of what it’s like to make sacrifices in order to live out your dreams. The long periods of time away from home, being away from the ones you love, until you ultimately find your way back home. The final moments of the track when the child’s voice appears, which one can only assume is Rocket, Beau’s daughter, will tug at your heartstrings in the best way possible. A great way to close out a spectacular album.
With the release of Hard Feelings, it seems as though BlessTheFall have found themselves out of that sinking rut and found a new life. This record is a coming-of-age tale about starting over and finding your place in this world, and BlessTheFall accomplished that by taking risks that inspired them to create a phenomenal record that they’re proud of. Hard Feelings harbors an energy that listeners can devour and relate to. It possesses all of the we love about their past albums, wrapped up in a fresh new package. There’s no hard feelings against this album, bravo BlessTheFall.